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Suicide biker kills 20

| Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan - Spectators were cheering the final moments of a wrestling match at a holiday fair when a motorbike weaved into the crowd -- and exploded in a searing fireball.

"It was like doomsday," said Abdul Samad, who was in the crowd Monday at the border town of Spinboldak. "The motorcycle went up into the air in flames."

The attacker, with explosives strapped to his body, killed 20 people and wounded at least 30. It was the third deadly bombing in just over 24 hours in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar province, and the bloodiest yet in a recent wave of suicide assaults.

Samad said he fled in a stampede of terrified spectators who had gathered at the fair to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. But he returned to help pull out the dead and injured, then escorted a wounded wrestler across the border to a hospital in Chaman, Pakistan.

"Some did not have their hands; others had their legs missing," he said.

About two-dozen suicide bombings have wracked Afghanistan during the past four months -- a relatively new tactic for militants here that has stoked fears of an escalating siege of bloody attacks like those in Iraq.

President Hamid Karzai warned earlier Monday that Afghanistan could again become a staging post for terrorist strikes in Europe and America if international support wavers.

The blast burned the hair, beard and left arm of Najamuddin, a 24-year-old wrestler who uses only one name. He also broke his right hand when he was blown to the ground.

"The explosion tossed me into the air and threw me back. When I got up, I saw people lying in blood," Najamuddin said from his bed in the Chaman hospital.

Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid put the toll at 20 dead and at least 30 wounded. Rafiq Tarin, a Pakistani official in Chaman, said more than 30 people were treated at the hospital there, including many in critical condition.

The motorbike assault came just hours after a bomb targeted a truck convoy of Afghan soldiers in Kandahar city, killing four people and wounding 16. On Sunday, a suicide car bomber in that southern provincial capital killed a senior Canadian diplomat and two Afghan civilians.

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